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CBS ranks Eli Manning as best first overall pick of the last two decades

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The two-time Super Bowl MVP is the best first overall pick of this millennium

2004 NFL Draft Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images

The New York Giants didn’t select Eli Manning first overall in the 2004 NFL Draft, but they certainly benefited from the then San Diego Chargers use of the first overall pick.

CBS Sports ranked every first overall pick from every draft of this millennium, and Easy E was ranked as the best No. 1 pick of the last two decades.

This is what they had to say about Eli:

1. QB Eli Manning

The first overall pick in the 2004 draft, Manning retired after the 2019 season with 125 career wins and two Super Bowl MVP awards under his belt. A four-time Pro Bowler, Manning is seventh all-time in both career passing yards and touchdown passes. His 210 consecutive starts is the third-highest total in league history.

Manning’s legacy as an all-time great player is complicated. While he did author one of the greatest upsets in professional sports history, Manning also led the league in interceptions three times, barely completed over 60% of his passes and recorded an underwhelming 117-117 regular season record. That being said, Manning did post an impressive 8-4 postseason record that included two Super Bowl wins over the Patriots. To get there, Manning and the Giants defeated Tony Romo and the Cowboys in the 2007 divisional round, Brett Favre and the Packers in the ‘07 NFC title game, Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the 15-1 Packers in the divisional round of the 2011 playoffs, and Alex Smith and the 49ers in the ‘11 NFC Championship Game.

When asked about his younger brother’s legacy, Peyton Manning, who will likely earn induction into the Hall of Fame in 2021, summed it up best.

“When you’re the Super Bowl MVP twice against the greatest dynasty of all-time, the New England Patriots, Tom Brady/Bill Belichick, and you join a list that includes Terry Bradshaw, Bart Starr, Tom Brady and Joe Montana, Eli Manning as the only (multiple) Super Bowl MVPs. I don’t really know what that term, ‘drop the mic’ is, but I guess if there was one. ... There really is no ‘yeah, but’ after that. That kind of ends it. But if you want a, ‘yeah, but,’ yeah, but he also started 220-plus consecutive games. He’s sixth or seventh all-time in touchdowns. It wasn’t like he just played those two seasons.

“He answered the bell, played his butt off, won some huge games for his team.”

Of course, any time Eli’s name comes up, so do questions about his place in the pantheon of quarterbacks and his case for the arise as well. Personally, I am staunchly in the “Eli to Canton” camp, and believe a lot of context is missing when his completion percentage, interception total, and win-loss record are simply stated.

To me, the fact that Eli consistently gave the Giants a chance to win despite consistently playing in very quarterback-unfriendly offenses and the team leading the NFL in injuries every year from 2012 to 2015 (setting a record for injuries in 2013) should not be glossed over. They make him even more impressive as a player.

The Giants paid a high price for Eli, trading Philip Rivers, the 2004 third-round pick, and the first- and fifth-round picks in 2005. But they certainly reaped the rewards from their investment.

The Top Five

  1. QB Eli Manning
  2. QB Cam Newton
  3. QB Carson Palmer
  4. QB Andrew Luck
  5. QB Michael Vick